The Vital Role of Crowdfunding and Social Media in Establishing an Art Career: A ‘How To’

Liao, I. 2018. The Vital Role of Crowdfunding and Social Media in Establishing an Art Career: A ‘How To’. PhD thesis University of Westminster Westminster School of Media and Communication

TitleThe Vital Role of Crowdfunding and Social Media in Establishing an Art Career: A ‘How To’
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsLiao, I.

This research project focuses on whether and how social media and crowdfunding platforms have changed the relationships that artists and creators have with their audience members, their creative works, their peers, their professional role identities, and the art market generally.
Primarily, I offer an analysis of artists’ life experiences with respect to their careers in the traditional market (e.g., galleries and museums) compared to the social media environment (e.g., Kickstarter). After analysing artists’ life stories and the art market ecosystem generally, this project focuses on how artists use social media platforms to promote and sell their work, and, related to this, how they use the new business model – crowdfunding – to advance their careers.
According to the research objectives, my literature review supports an analysis of the United Kingdom’s art market ecosystem to present a detailed picture of the market trends pre- and post-social media. Next, the literature focuses on observations and testimonials about the relationships creators and artists had to the art market environment prior to 2007 (social media’s inception) and post 2007. Additionally, the literature helps to contextualise online business transactions and associated practices in the wake of the ‘attention economy’ and the turn towards the ‘attention-emotion economy’; in particular, how this impacts artists’ communications with and packaging of their creative works for their audiences.
Selecting this particular research design helps to identify why and how artists use crowdfunding platforms (supported by social media) to develop their art careers instead of relying on galleries (i.e. traditional approaches) to acquire more power and opportunities to have a reasonable standard of living and pursue their artistic passions.
This research project draws on multi-methods, such as in-depth interviews and case studies that are supported by auto-ethnography, action research, and creative visual research methods (such as LEGO). For the purposes of this study, I have developed a RAINBOW analysis framework to support data collection, interpretation, reflection on the results, and propose validated best practices for emerging artists who want to advance their careers through social media and crowdfunding platforms. This analysis framework facilitates each interview subject (including the researcher) in adopting seven perspectives (reflection, audience, innovation, network, business, opportunities, and weaknesses) and enabling a deep
exploration of internal and external relationships within the art market environment.
The study’s findings demonstrate that successful business people – including artists – who want to conduct business online must be responsive to the dynamics of the ‘attentionemotion economy’. Given the accessibility and popularity of the internet and social media platforms, it is becoming increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs to first attract and then capture attention. The literature review, case study, and data from the ten in-depth
interviews each show that it is imperative for sellers to use emotion to create the kind of organic connections with their potential customers (through communications and products) that will convert an interest into a sale. Once creators and artists establish organic connections and begin to see them grow, it will not only help them to develop their careers but also empower them to become independent in the art market. This further ensures that creators and artists will be able to have more power and autonomy in the art market ecosystem, without having to rely on traditional galleries.

Publication dates
PublishedMay 2018

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